4 Ways to Spot Black Hat Online Reputation Management


Online Reputation Management, or ORM, is one of the biggest buzzwords of our industry.  We are all talking about it because we are all still trying to figure out how to do it well.

You might even still be asking yourself why it is so important. Your company’s reputation and your personal reputation is everything.  People are going to search your name or your company’s name, and there is a chance they will see negative results on the search engine results page.  What you do and how you react to the results is very important.

This is why so many look to online reputation management firms to “fix” or manage their online reputation.  It is okay to hire an outside firm, but you do have to be aware of what you are getting into.  Sadly, there is a very dark side of online reputation management that breaks the rules and attempts to cheat the system.

ORM is an entire industry focused on making bad things on the internet disappear.  As we know, Google is not an easy one to crack.  The biggest challenge of ORM firms is tricking Google into pushing the bad news down the page while leaving the good news up top.  And if you are constantly trying to hide something, like a negative apartment review or bad press, the work you paid $5000 for today might be useless next month when Google releases its next version of their algorithm.

And yes, you read that correctly.  Good ORM firms should cost at least a few thousand dollars per month.  It was quite the sticker shock for me the first time I looked into hiring a firm, which is exactly why I decided to teach myself ORM!

If you are looking to hire an outside firm, beware of the guys doing shady work.  It is very easy to get duped, so here are 4 ways to spot black hat online reputation management companies.  (If you see one of these warning signs, run for the hills!)

1. Very Secretive

Firms using methods that are breaking the rules, or even the law, will not be eager to share with you what they do and how they do it.  The firm you hire should be transparent about how they are going to manage your reputation and push up the positive news.

2. Extortion

Yep, extortion.  Blackmail, too.  Black hat online reputation management firms will often offer to take care of a negative story for a small fee, and as soon as you engage them, additional stories appear.  It is a vicious cycle that is difficult to stop once it starts.

3. Astroturfing

This one is a little more difficult to spot.  Astroturfing is the 21st century’s version of false advertising.  Firms that practice astroturfing buy fake apartment reviews, often times from other countries, for as little as $1 to improve your score or ranking as fast as possible.  This is such a problem that there are sting operations in place to bust firms that practice astroturfing.

4. Low Cost

If an ORM firm charges too little, beware.  On the lowest end, an ORM firm should be a few thousand a month.  This is because it takes a lot of work to do it the right way.  The black hats will build fake sites, buy fake reviews, and write crappy, fake articles to make very short-term improvements.

Now that you know what to look for, remember that you want to be proactive with your online reputation rather than reactive.  Start managing it now when things are good, so that if something bad or negative does happen, you can recover quickly.  And, it is easy to manage your online reputation when everything is positive!

Just keep in mind, if you want a good online reputation, you have to build a good offline reputation.